Anthony Davis enjoyed his highest-scoring game since January 2020 as he put up 44 points to deliver a Los Angeles Lakers road win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

The Bucks entered the contest on a three-game winning streak, and were welcoming three-time All-Star Khris Middleton back to the starting line-up for his first action of the season. 

Middleton was solid in his return, scoring 17 points on six-of-11 shooting with seven assists and no turnovers in his 27 minutes, but there was nothing he could do to stop Davis.

Davis was dueling head-to-head with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and while the Bucks superstar had 40 points (16-of-23 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists, Davis dropped his 44 on 18-of-27 shooting, adding a game-high 10 rebounds and three blocks.

It is the third-most points Davis has scored in a Lakers jersey, trailing a 46-point effort back in 2020 and a 50-point explosion in 2019.

Davis is averaging 26.3 points, 12.7 rebounds (most in the NBA) and 2.3 blocks per game (third-most) this campaign, and both his field goal percentage (56.9 per cent) and true shooting percentage (63.5 per cent) are career-highs.

With the win, the Lakers have now emerged victorious in seven of their past nine games to salvage their rough start and improve their record to 9-12, while the Bucks hold onto the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 15-6.

Heat upset the Celtics in overtime

The Miami Heat (11-12) collected an impressive 120-116 overtime win against the league-leading Boston Celtics (18-5) as four of their starters scored at least 20 points each.

Bam Adebayo top-scored for the Heat with 28 points, while Tyler Herro added 26 with three steals, Jimmy Butler had 25 with 15 rebounds and Kyle Lowry chipped in 20 of his own.

Jaylen Brown was terrific for the Celtics with a game-high 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting, adding 14 rebounds and five assists, but his heroics were not enough to prevent his side from dropping only their second game from their past 16 outings.

Morant, Jackson deliver Grizzlies win

Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr showed exactly why they are the two centerpieces the Memphis Grizzlies are building around, delivering on both ends in a 117-109 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Morant top-scored for the Grizzlies with 28 (10-of-28 shooting), while Jackson flashed his unique skill-set by blocking four shots and hitting two three-pointers on his way to 22 points (seven-of-12) and nine rebounds.

Joel Embiid was immense for the 76ers, scoring a game-high 35 points (13-of-26) with 12 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks, posting a plus/minus of plus nine in his 41 minutes.

This means in the seven minutes he was on the bench, the 76ers were outscored by 17.

Devin Booker continued his hot scoring run with a season-high 51 points in only 31 minutes as the Phoenix Suns won 132-113 over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

Booker, who scored 44 points against the Sacramento Kings on Monday, added 26 of his 51 points in the third quarter, including making five-of-five from three-point range.

It was the fourth 25-point quarter in Booker's career, tied with Kobe Bryant for second most in the past 25 years.

Booker shot at 80 per cent from the field, making six-of-seven from three-point range, while he also added four rebounds and six assists before sitting out most of the final quarter.

It marked Booker's fourth career 50-point game, which is the most in franchise history.

Suns center Deandre Ayton contributed 30 points with 14 rebounds and two blocks as Phoenix improved to 15-6.

The Bulls fall to 9-12, with DeMar DeRozan top scoring with 29 points with seven rebounds.

Tatum stars in front of royals with 49-point haul

Jayson Tatum scored a season-high 49 points as the Boston Celtics maintained their perfect home record in November with a 134-121 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Celtics small forward scored 28 of his points in the first half, which is the most in any half this season, while he also had 11 rebounds, three assists and two assists. Jaylen Brown added 26 points with seven rebounds in a game attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales, who sat courtside.

Tatum brought up his fifth 45-point game, which is second behind Larry Bird (19) in Celtics history, having moved ahead of Paul Pierce (four).

Hot Nets above .500 for first time this season

The Brooklyn Nets claimed their fifth straight home win as Kevin Durant scored 39 points in a 113-107 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Durant managed a game-high 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Kyrie Irving added 15 of his 27 points in the final quarter.

The win improved the Nets to 12-11, moving above .500 for the first time this season on the back of three straight wins.

Jayson Tatum shook off injury to get the better of Luka Doncic as the Boston Celtics blew out the Dallas Mavericks in a 125-112 victory, having led by as many as 27 points on Wednesday.

Tatum, who had been listed as questionable with a sprained ankle, scored 37 points with 13 rebounds and five assists, while Jaylen Brown contributed 31 points on 13-of-18 field shooting.

Doncic scored a game-high 42 points with eight rebounds and nine assists but gave up five turnovers, and was blocked by Tatum in the fourth quarter.

Tatum and Doncic went head to head in the final quarter after the Mavs closed to 117-107. The Celtics forward first dunked, then made two free-throws after being fouled by the Slovenian, before blocking Doncic's driving lay-up.

Brown drained a three-point attempt after Marcus Smart's assist and suddenly it was 124-107 and game over.

Smart had 13 points with nine assists, while center Al Horford hit four-of-four from three-point range in his 14 points.

The Celtics moved to an NBA-best 14-4 record with the victory, while the Mavs suffered their fifth loss in six road games to fall to 9-8.

Wiggins stars as Warriors get back to winning ways

All-Star Andrew Wiggins enjoyed a season-high game with 31 points including six three-pointers as the Golden State Warriors won 124-107 over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Stephen Curry scored 22 points, making four-of-10 from beyond the arc, with six rebounds and nine assists as the Warriors improved to 9-10.

The result ended the three-game winning run of the Clippers, who were without All-Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Marcus Morris Sr top scored for the Clippers with 19 points.

Bulls topple Bucks to claim another big scalp

The Chicago Bulls claimed another big scalp only a few days after ending the Celtics' nine-game winning run, with a 118-113 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

DeMar DeRozan starred for the Bulls with 36 points and eight assists, while Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 36 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Chicago trailed 109-106 with 1:15 remaining before Coby White sunk two three-pointers to sink the Bucks, who gave up 19 turnovers for the game.

Jaylen Brown insists he does not endorse the protesters who gathered outside Barclays Center to welcome Kyrie Irving's return from suspension for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

Irving had sat out eight straight games after being punished for sharing a social media post about a book and film with anti-Semitic tropes.

He returned to the fold against the Memphis Grizzlies, a game that saw approximately 100 members from Israel United in Christ gather outside the venue, chanting and handing out flyers headlined "The Truth About Anti-Semitism" and "The Truth about Slavery".

The group has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Boston Celtics guard and NBPA vice-president Brown retweeted a social media video of the group with the caption "Energy".

Brown later backtracked on the post insisting he "was not aware of what specific group was outside of Barclays Center" and reiterated that stance when speaking after Monday's defeat to the Chicago Bulls.

"I saw a large group of our people from our community showing support for [Kyrie] and his return," Brown said.

"Me being proud of that support and being proud of our community for doing that does not mean I endorse or celebrate some of the things that were being done or being said.

"My instinct when I saw this was I didn't notice which group it was. I just noticed the support, and that's what I commented on. I reemphasise that I don't think that everything that is said or being done or being said is something I endorse or represent."

Brown added he wanted to promote "brown and black people standing together on our issues rather than seeing images of violence in our media, music and movies that we don't entirely promote or profit from".

Brown has criticised the Nets' handling of Irving's suspension and the terms set out for him to return to court.

"I've been in contact as a union member, as a former team-mate just to show support for the situation that [Irving's] been going through," Brown added.

"Being exiled from the game, of course, emotionally is a lot on our league, but it's a lot on everyone who's a fan of this game.

"Kyrie's contributed in a lot of ways to the game of basketball, so for him to be able to come back and be on the floor last night, I thought was something to celebrate.

"I thought that was something to support. The NBA, the Brooklyn Nets decided whatever the disagreements were or the concern was, was obviously handled and we were moving on. I was supporting that decision."

Kyrie Irving never doubted he would return for the Brooklyn Nets after his team-imposed suspension, while he declined to answer questions about the Israel United in Christ group that turned out at Barclays Center in support of him.

Irving made his NBA return after eight games out due to suspension for sharing a social media post about a book and film with antisemitic tropes, scoring 14 points in 26 minutes in a 127-115 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The All-Star's return to the NBA came after a lengthy remediation process that split opinions, involving the Nets, the league, the NBPA and Irving, who also met with key community members.

"Never had a doubt," Irving responded after the game when asked if he feared the situation may mean he would never play for the Nets again.

On his return, Irving added: "I felt good. I missed my teammates, missed the coaching staff… It felt good to get this game out of the way. Now we can move forward with the rest of the season."

Prior to the game, approximately 100 members from Israel United in Christ group were outside the venue, chanting and handing out flyers headlined "The Truth About Anti-Semitism" and "The Truth about Slavery".

The group has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center yet appeared to be in support of Irving's social media post that led to his suspension.

"I think that's a conversation for another day. I'm just here to focus on the game," Irving said when asked about the group's presence.

When asked again, he added: "Again I'm just here to focus on the game."

Boston Celtics swingman and NBPA vice-president Jaylen Brown retweeted a social media video of the group, writing "energy".

Brown later backtracked on the post, but did not delete it. He wrote: "I was not aware of what specific group that was outside of Barclay’s Center tonight. I was celebrating the unification of our people welcoming the return of Kyrie to the court, first glance I thought it was a known fraternity the (C/Que’s) Omega psi phi (step’n) showing support."

Stephen Curry scored 50 points but could not prevent the Golden State Warriors' winless road run from extending to eight games after a 130-119 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

The defeat means the Warriors are 0-8 on the road this season, and slump to 6-9 in the 2022-23 campaign, which is a tie for fourth worst 15-game start to a season by an NBA champion.

Golden State's 0-8 road start is the worst ever by a defending champion in NBA history. The eight-defeat run is also a tie for third for longest road losing streak by a defending champion in their title-defense season.

The Warriors' defense was an issue once again, having allowed 124.3 points per game on the road this season which is the worst in the NBA. The Warriors' opponents have scored 120 or more points six times in 15 games this season.

The Suns improved to 9-5, with point guard Cameron Payne top scoring with 29 points including six three-pointers alongside Devin Booker with 27 points. Mikal Bridges added 23 points with five triples along with eight rebounds and nine assists.

Phoenix, who were without Cameron Johnson (knee), Chris Paul (heel) and Jae Crowder, knocked down a season-high 21 three-pointers, which is the most allowed by the Warriors this season, shooting at 52.5 per cent from beyond the arc.

Curry posted 50 points on 17-of-28 field shooting with seven-of-11 from three-point range with nine rebounds and six assists. Klay Thompson added 19 points but the Warriors' bench combined for only 17 points.

Celtics extend winning run to eight games

The short-handed Boston Celtics secured their eighth straight win with a 126-101 victory over the Atlanta Hawks where seven players scored double digits for the winners.

Jayson Tatum had a career-high six assists in the first quarter and finished the game with 19 points, with seven rebounds and eight assists, while Jaylen Brown top scored for Boston with 22 points. Derrick White dished off 10 assists and Al Horford hauled down 11 rebounds.

During the Celtics' eight-game win streak, they have the NBA's best offensive efficiency (123.2), three-point field goals made (16.4) and assists-turnovers ratio (2.3).

SGA comes up clutch again for OKC

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored an equal career-high 42 points, including draining a last-gasp three-pointer to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Washington Wizards 121-120.

Bradley Beal had hit a two-pointer to put the Wizards up 120-118 with 6.1 seconds left, but Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored 19 points in the third quarter, had time to hit a step-back triple with 1.1 seconds remaining.

Over the last two seasons, Gilgeous-Alexander has scored four go-ahead or game-tying field goals in the final five seconds, which is more than any other player in the NBA. Nine players have two.

The Milwaukee Bucks overcame the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo to reach a franchise-record ninth straight win to open the season with a 108-94 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo was absent due to left knee soreness, but Brook Lopez delivered with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting including four three-pointers for the Bucks who are 9-0.

Jrue Holiday provided 13 assists with 10 points, while forward Bobby Portis pulled down 21 rebounds with 12 points.

Guards Jevon Carter and Grayson Allen scored five three-pointers each, contributing 18 and 19 points respectively for Milwaukee.

The Bucks shot 17-of-47 (36.2 per cent) from three-point range, while Portis' dominance in the paint helped them to 55-38 rebounds. Four of Portis' 21 rebounds were offensive.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander top scored for OKC with 18 points, while second-year guard Josh Giddey had 15 points with six rebounds.

Nets rally for back-to-back wins

Amid their off-court tumult, Kevin Durant led the Brooklyn Nets to back-to-back wins with a 98-94 victory over the Charlotte Hornets rallying back after trailing by 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Durant scored a game-high 27 points, including a clutch jump shot to open up a four-point lead with 32 seconds remaining, along with seven rebounds. The win improved the Nets to 3-6.

Cam Thomas stepped up off the bench with 21 points for the Nets who were without Kyrie Irving (suspension) and Ben Simmons (knee soreness).

Celtics hit franchise-record, Suns move to 7-2

The Boston Celtics scored a franchise-record 27 three-pointers with six each from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as they got past the New York Knicks 133-118.

Tatum scored 26 points while Brown had a game-high 30 points, while Sam Hauser came off the bench to add five triples in his 17-point haul, with all nine of the Celtics used making a three-pointer.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns improved to 7-2 with a comfortable 102-82 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, with Devin Booker scoring 24 points.

A stunning 49-point outburst from Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant carried his side back from a 16-point first-half deficit to defeat the Houston Rockets 129-122 on Friday.

Morant had 18 points and six assists in the first half, but the rest of the Grizzlies were struggling, falling into a 42-26 hole early in the second quarter before trimming the margin to 70-62 at halftime.

The second pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, Jalen Green, showed why Rockets fans are so excited as he piled up 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting while going four-of-five from long range, but Morant was matching him step-for-step before running away late.

Memphis won the fourth quarter 34-22 as the Rockets ran out of gas, with Morant finishing 17-of-26 from the field, and five-of-six from long range, while adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He had 31 in the second half, and only a missed free throw in the fourth quarter kept him from scoring 50.

In an eye-catching performance, second-year center Alperen Sengun tallied 23 points (nine-of-13 shooting) with 12 rebounds in 27 minutes off the Houston bench.

Beal wins it for the Wizards

The Washington Wizards are now 2-0 after a Bradley Beal game-winner with seven seconds remaining handed his side a 102-100 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago trailed by nine points with less than five minutes to play, but from that point on DeMar DeRozan dropped 11 of his 32 points (11-of-23 shooting), tying things up at 98-98 with a minute remaining after a pair of free throws.

Beal answered back with a layup, and DeRozan leveled the score again with a dunk, before Beal sank the dagger to finish with 19 points (nine-of-14 shooting) and eight assists. DeRozan had a chance to win it with a three-pointer on the buzzer, but could not deliver.

Brown and Tatum carry the Celtics

The combination of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum proved too much for the Miami Heat to overcome, with the duo combining for 57 points in the Boston Celtics' 111-104 triumph.

Tatum finished with 29 points on 10-of-22 shooting, getting to the line and hitting all seven of his free throws, while Brown was more efficient from the field, hitting 12-of-18 shots for 28 points after they scored 35 each in Boston's season opener.

The Heat could not survive in the minutes center Bam Adebayo had to sit down, as the big man posted 19 points (eight-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a plus/minus of plus 20 in his 35 minutes. Unfortunately for Miami, they were minus 26 in the 12 minutes he was on the bench.

Simmons banks first win as a Net

The Brooklyn Nets won their first game with Ben Simmons as they defeated the Toronto Raptors 109-105 at home.

Simmons was solid without contributing much on the scoreboard, finishing with six points (three-of-five shooting), but he grabbed 10 rebounds, dished eight assists and blocked two shots.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant carried the scoring load, as Irving top-scored, producing 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting while adding seven assists, while Durant hit eight-of-18 shots for 27 points and six assists.

The Golden State Warriors have begun their title defense in fine fashion, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 123-109 at home on the opening night of the NBA season.

With the Warriors receiving their championship rings in a ceremony before the game, they were determined to make it a night to remember, with reigning Finals MVP Stephen Curry leading the way.

Curry finished with 33 points on 10-of-22 shooting, hitting four-of-13 from long range and all nine of his free throws to lead both teams in scoring. He also chipped in seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

Jordan Poole had 10 of his 12 points in the first half to lead the Warriors to a 59-52 halftime lead, before Klay Thompson took over to begin the third quarter, scoring his side's first seven points on three consecutive shots to ignite a 32-19 frame, blowing the game open in the process.

The Warriors' lead peaked at 91-64 late in the third quarter, before the visiting Lakers scored 38 in the fourth to trim the final score to a respectable figure.

In his 20th season, LeBron James looked as strong as ever, finishing with 31 points (12-of-25 shooting) with 14 rebounds and eight assists, while Anthony Davis had 27 points (10-of-22 shooting) with six rebounds, four steals and two blocks, although Davis posted the worst plus/minus of the game at minus 21.

Tatum, Brown combine for 70 in Celtics win

In what was officially the first game of the season, the Boston Celtics and interim head coach Joe Mazzulla collected an impressive 126-117 home win against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics had to compete with a spectacular James Harden performance, who led the 76ers with 35 points on nine-of-14 shooting, including five-of-nine from long range and 12-of-12 from the free throw line, while adding eight rebounds and seven assists.

Harden had a plus/minus of plus one in his 37 minutes, meaning the 76ers were outscored by 10 in the 11 minutes he was on the bench.

For Boston, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were almost unstoppable all night, scoring 35 points each at a combined 61 per cent from the field (27-of-44), while Tatum also grabbed 12 rebounds and Brown had two steals.

New signing Malcolm Brogdon showed no signs of needing an adjustment period, making an immediate impact off the Celtics' bench with 16 points (seven-of-11 shooting) and four assists in 24 minutes.

The NBA is back, which means excitement for most fanbases – but anxiety for others.

The new season should ensure a clean slate for everyone, but some situations have been allowed to fester in recent months without the distraction of on-court action.

Now, even with basketball returning, developments around Kevin Durant's future might prove every bit as intriguing to the neutral as anything that happens in the regular season.

And Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are not the only player-team combo in a tricky spot heading into the year...

Everyone at the Lakers

Before considering the wide-ranging implications of Durant's trade request, let's check in on last year's team in crisis.

Plenty of outsiders could have forecast difficulties for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis joined in a 'big three' by Russell Westbrook – at this stage in his career, consistent only in using up a huge number of possessions.

Westbrook had averaged a usage rate above 30 per cent in every season between 2014-15 and 2020-21, with his average over the seven seasons (34.6 per cent) only narrowly trailing James Harden's league-leading 34.7 per cent (minimum 500 possessions). A ball-dominant player on often mediocre teams, Westbrook's winning percentage of 59.2 ranked 109th over this period among those to play 100 or more games. Harden (66.2) was a far more respectable 29th.

Although his usage dipped to 27.5 per cent around better players in LA, Westbrook remained every bit as erratic as expected and, unfortunately for the Lakers, played more than 500 more minutes than any team-mate – comfortably ahead of an ageing James and bulkier Davis.

The three superstars started just 21 games together and even then only scraped a winning record at 11-10.

Having missed the playoffs – and even the play-in – in 11th in the West, the Lakers fired coach Frank Vogel, perhaps optimistically hoping he alone was the problem, and brought back each of James, Davis and Westbrook.

Seemingly determined to further upset a team who won the title just two years ago, the Lakers were also linked with a move for Kyrie Irving before settling instead on Patrick Beverley, who might prove only marginally less disruptive.

Westbrook and Beverley have repeatedly clashed in the past, although the new Lakers signing has described his team-mate as "someone I always wanted to play with", praising his "competitive spirit, that fire, that will, that dog, that nastiness, that grit".

New coach Darvin Ham thinks the pair can work together, but the potential for fireworks is considerable even before taking into account James' own "competitive spirit".

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Nets

The 2019 free agency moves for Durant and Irving certainly made the Nets relevant. But they haven't yet made them successful. And right now, Brooklyn might be the most explosive environment in the NBA.

Durant missed their first year together with an Achilles injury sustained playing for the Golden State Warriors, yet the Nets have still only won seven playoff games in the past three postseasons – all seven of those wins coming in a short-lived 2020-21 run.

Last season, as they had been in their first season with Durant and Irving, Brooklyn were swept in the first round. It concluded a miserable campaign that was not about to get better in the offseason.

With Irving unvaccinated and so unable to play in New York City until March, he and Durant started only 17 games together in the regular season. The Nets had started the season with their own 'big three', but Harden – much to his frustration – appeared just twice alongside the star pairing before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons came in the other direction and did not play once.

Far from a happy camp, when Irving then opted in to the final year of his contract in late June, the Nets were vulnerable to a trade request from Durant, which quickly followed.

However, with four years remaining on his own deal and Brooklyn asking for a huge price in trade talks, it was reported Durant had returned to the Nets and promised to stay if head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.

Ultimately, Durant "agreed to move forward with our partnership" – as Marks phrased it – regardless, with Nash saying in September his relationship with the superstar was "good".

"I love the guy," added Nash, who understood Durant being "seething" at the end of the season. "Families have issues. We had a moment, and it's behind us. That's what happens."

In theory – especially if Simmons can return to his two-time All-Defensive First Team best – the Nets could have a great team in 2022-23.

Yet based on how this project has gone so far, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Brooklyn endure another desperately disappointing season and are again left attempting to convince Durant to stay.

James Harden at the 76ers

The 76ers moved one miserable superstar in Simmons for another in Harden, which was only enough to take them as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

And en route to that unsatisfactory conclusion, team-mate Joel Embiid was not shy in criticising Harden, repeatedly calling on him to be more aggressive while recognising he is no longer "the Houston James Harden".

It was an understandable complaint; Harden attempted only 13.6 field goals per game for the Sixers in the regular season – little more than half the number of shots he was taking in 2018-19 for the Houston Rockets (24.5), when he scored a career-high 36.1 points per game. He was also only making 40.2 per cent of his field goal attempts in Philly, down on every other season in his career.

So far, it is fair to say this has not worked. Doc Rivers, in a training camp clip published by the NBA, told Harden he and Embiid needed to "listen to each other" and acknowledged the partnership needed work as it was "unnatural".

Echoing some of Embiid's complaints, coach Rivers said: "You can't just say you're a facilitator. I need you to be a scorer and a facilitator."

Rivers for now believes it can still be fixed. "When it clicks, James, we're going to be unbeatable," he told a player who, for his part, agreed to a restructured contract that allowed Philly to bolster their roster in the offseason.

But this team – and certainly Embiid – might argue more help would not be required if Harden played in the manner he is capable.

"We've got to establish Joel and you – it's a pecking order," added Rivers. "This ain't a democracy."

Embiid may not believe this is "the Houston James Harden", but the team and Harden himself seemingly do, with the former Rocket announcing: "If my conditioning can be level with my skill set and my IQ and the work that I put in, it's MVP – and I feel like my conditioning is where it needs to be."

Harden needs to start showing that, or this time his team might tire of him, rather than the other way around.

Jaylen Brown at the Celtics

Little has gone to plan for the Boston Celtics since winning Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Finals, as they lost the next three to the Warriors and then saw preparations for a bounce-back season in 2022-23 rocked by a number of key absences.

Boston will begin the year without new signing Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL playing for Italy, Robert Williams, who has also undergone knee surgery, and, crucially, coach Ime Udoka.

Udoka had turned around his first season as a head coach spectacularly, with the Celtics tied for ninth in the East at the turn of the year after a 17-19 start before leading the conference the rest of the way (34-12) to take the second seed.

But a year-long suspension for Udoka "for violations of team policies" was announced by the team last month.

And even between the ultimately disappointing postseason and repeatedly disrupted preseason, not everything was rosy, with Boston also impacted by the Durant saga.

When Durant looked to be on the move, reports claimed the Celtics had offered the Nets a package that included Jaylen Brown. That trade did not materialise, of course, but it is difficult to imagine Brown was too impressed.

In recent seasons, Brown has been hugely valuable to the Celtics – not least because he is being paid below his value.

Brown is one of only 11 players who has scored at least 1,400 points at an average of at least 23.5 per game in each of the past two seasons. Of the other 10, four have current or future contracts with an average annual value of more than $50m, another four are being paid over $40m per year, and the final two are bringing in a salary in excess of $30m a season.

Brown's deal, which ranks outside the top 50 contracts in the NBA in both total value and average annual value, earns him $26.6m each year.

And the rules around NBA extensions will prevent Brown being paid on par with his contemporaries unless he makes All-NBA in one of the two seasons remaining on his contract.

In theory, that carrot should encourage Brown to enjoy another big season, but at a franchise as fractured as the Celtics have suddenly become, focus could understandably drift instead towards free agency in 2024.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the Thunder

Unlike the other teams on this list, the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have the pressure of needing to win now – but that is part of the problem.

OKC moved on their ageing stars, loaded up on draft picks and put together a young core that includes Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That is all very exciting... or at least it will be.

Rookie Holmgren is down for the year, seemingly making this another season in which the Thunder will lose games and then see what they can do in the draft.

That is no great issue for 20-year-old Holmgren or 19-year-old Giddey, but it does not suit Gilgeous-Alexander, now 24 and entering his fifth year, quite so much – even if he also starts the year injured.

Among the 63 players to score 2,000 or more points across the past two seasons combined, Gilgeous-Alexander ranked 18th for points per game (24.2). He ranked 61st for wins (32).

This is not a case of an average player stat-padding on a bad team; he is simply too good to be in this situation.

And having agreed a five-year extension in August ahead of Holmgren's injury, it appeared Gilgeous-Alexander had unknowingly signed up for more of the same.

He disagrees, insisting: "I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension. I don't think we're going to be losing for much longer. It's not like I signed up to lose."

But lose they will, if they have any sense – and past experience suggests they do.

Without Holmgren, the Thunder are not going to be in any position to seriously compete, which opens up the possibility to pick high in a draft that includes a potentially generational talent in Victor Wembanyama.

At some stage, OKC will be ready, but that is not now, and Gilgeous-Alexander could be forgiven for finding his patience waning.

The Boston Celtics have emerged as a possible trade destination for Kevin Durant, according to reports.

The 12-time All-Star forward rocked the Brooklyn Nets by requesting a trade last month, having joined the franchise in 2019.

Having won back-to-back NBA titles in 2017 and 2018 during his time with the Golden State Warriors, being named the finals' MVP on both occasions, Durant has reportedly shown signs of discontent with the Nets' failure to compete for a first-ever NBA title.

The Nets' 2022 playoff campaign was halted by a first-round defeat to the Celtics, who now appear to be in the hunt for Durant's signature.

According to a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics' ability to include 2021 All-star forward Jaylen Brown in any deal makes them a strong contender to acquire Durant, who is under contract until 2026.

Durant is expected to command a huge trade package, and ESPN claim Boston could offer as many as three unprotected first-round picks and two pick swaps alongside Brown's services.

The Miami Heat, the Phoenix Suns and the Toronto Raptors have also been credited with an interest in Durant, who led the Nets with an average of 29.9 points per game across his 2021-22 regular-season campaign, posting a 36-19 record in his 55 outings.

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has thrown his support behind Jayson Tatum despite the 2022 All-NBA First Teamer's down NBA Finals series.

Three-time NBA All-Star Tatum averaged only 21.5 points per game in the NBA Finals, shooting 50 per cent or better from the field only once in their 4-2 series loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Tatum also gave up 23 turnovers in the six games in the NBA Finals. The 24-year-old had a mixed playoffs, finishing with the most turnovers (100) by a single player in NBA postseason history.

However, Tatum was also outstanding in series wins over the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, including a remarkable 46-point haul in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals facing elimination against the reigning champions.

"I just told him to go on vacation," Stevens told reporters during a videoconference call. "Go get some rest."

"This guy gave us everything he had. When you look at the minutes, when you look at the games played ... I've said this many times: He's a superstar that doesn't want to sit. He wants to play, he wants to play all the time.

"I thought that in the Finals, he would be the first to say that he would like to have some of those moments back, but I thought there were other contributing factors to how he played."

Tatum, who was named in the All-NBA First Team for the first time in 2022, averaged career-highs with 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game across the 2021-21 regular season.

The Celtics small forward shot at 45.3 per cent from the field across the regular season, dipping slightly to 42.6 per cent in the postseason.

During the playoffs, Tatum averaged 25.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.16 assists but with 4.16 turnovers per game.

"We're all subjective in every moment and react emotionally, but when you start looking at it objectively and more so historically, what Jayson and Jaylen [Brown] have done in the playoffs, historically at their ages, is rarified air," Stevens said.

"I think we're very cognisant of the fact that even though Jayson would admittedly not have played his best series, there's no chance we're there without him and without all of his great play all the way through.

"I think back to all of the times ... Game 6 in Milwaukee was one of the best games I've seen an individual play in my time, certainly in person and with the Celtics.

"Without that performance, we would have had this discussion a month and a half ago."

The Golden State Warriors secured their fourth NBA Championship in the past eight years with a 103-90 away win against the Boston Celtics in Game 6.

With the win, the Warriors secured a 4-2 series win, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to rattle off three of the next four, including two road wins in Boston.

While the night ended in Golden State celebrations, the start was all Celtics, jumping out of the gates to a 14-2 lead.

The Warriors kept in touch, and then went on an explosive, game-winning run late in the first quarter, turning a 22-16 deficit into a 37-22 lead with a 21-0 run.

Golden State's defense rose to the occasion, out-playing the Celtics' league-best defense, holding the home side to 17 points in the second quarter to lead 54-39 at half-time.

The Celtics did not lay down, launching their own run late in the third quarter, closing the term on a 16-4 run to cut the lead down to 10 as Al Horford willed his side back into the game. Horford had 12 points, six rebounds and a block in just the third quarter.

Down the stretch, with the Warriors needing to steady, it would be their superstar who would stand up. 

Stephen Curry had 13 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 34 points (12-of-21 shooting, six-of-11 from three), seven rebounds and seven assists.

His performance capped off a series where he averaged 31.2 points, six rebounds and five assists, earning him the first Finals MVP of his Hall-of-Fame career.

Andrew Wiggins was the Warriors' second-best player all series, and he produced one of the best defensive games of his career in Game 6, holding Jayson Tatum to just 13 points on six-of-18 shooting, while taking four steals and blocking three shots.

Wiggins also added 18 points on seven-of-18 shooting, with six rebounds and five assists. With the performance, he scored at least 17 points in five of the six Finals games, and averaged a team-high 8.8 rebounds per game in the series.

Jaylen Brown was the Celtics' brightest star, scoring 34 points on 12-of-23 shooting, but he also had five turnovers, which was a theme for the hosts.

The Celtics committed 22 turnovers as a team – seven more than the Warriors – after committing 18 to Golden State's seven in their Game 5 loss. During the regular season, Boston averaged 13.6 turnovers per game.

The Golden State Warriors produced a spectacular defensive second half to defeat the Boston Celtics 107-97 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

With the win on the road, the Warriors tied the series at 2-2, avoiding the dreaded 3-1 deficit that history shows is almost impossible to come back from.

From the jump, it was the Stephen Curry show, scoring 12 points in the first quarter to keep the Warriors in the fight, trailing 28-27 at quarter-time.

Eight quick points from Jordan Poole off the bench gave the Warriors a jolt to start the second period, before Jaylen Brown answered with 10 of his own. 

Ultimately it was the Celtics' defense controlling the second quarter, holding the Warriors to two-of-12 shooting from long range in the frame to win it 26-22 and head into half-time leading 54-49.

Everyone expected the Warriors to come out hot in the third quarter, and they did not disappoint, with Curry and Klay Thompson both hitting jump shots in the first 40 seconds, igniting a 30-24 period for the visitors.

Curry scored another 14 points in the third, with a late three giving the Warriors a 79-78 lead heading into the last.

All series the Boston defense has gone up a gear in the fourth quarter, but this time the Warriors gave them a taste of their own medicine, holding the home side to 19 points.

A Marcus Smart three-pointer with 5:18 remaining put the Celtics up 94-90, but they would score just three points the rest of the way, spanning nearly four minutes between Smart's bucket and Al Horford's three with 1:32 on the clock.

Curry capped off his magical performance with 10 of the Warriors' last 12 points, finishing with 43 points while shooting 14-of-26 from the field and seven-of-14 from long range. He added 10 rebounds and four assists.

Also shining when the Warriors needed him most was Andrew Wiggins, who snatched a career-high 16 rebounds, including some important offensive rebounds and put-backs with his team trailing, as he also chipped in 17 points and finished with a plus/minus of plus 20. His plus/minus trailed only Kevon Looney's plus 21.

For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum was solid, but scored inefficiently, with 23 points on eight-of-23 shooting, while adding 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Brown was also respectable, scoring 21 on nine-of-19 shooting, while Derrick White added 16 off the bench.

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart highlighted how the bumpy journey to this point is what makes his team so unified, after they produced a near-perfect defensive fourth quarter to defeat the Golden State Warriors 116-110 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

The win gives the Celtics a 2-1 series lead, with a chance to go up 3-1 by holding serve at home in Game 4.

In the process, the Celtics core of Smart, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown became the first trio since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper in 1984 to all have at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a Finals game.

The Celtics needed to get up off the canvas after a trademark Golden State Warriors third-quarter run saw them claw back from a 12-point half-time deficit to take an 83-82 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the third.

In response, the Celtics held the Warriors to just 11 points in the fourth quarter, completely shutting down one of the most dynamic offenses in league history to lock up the win at home.


Smart, who has been criticised for trying to be too involved in the Celtics offense while neglecting his point guard duties, credited his star team-mates for helping him believe in his own scoring ability.

"The 'Jays' – Jayson and Jaylen – have done a really good job of encouraging me to be aggressive on the offensive end," he said. "And really understanding that for me, in this team, I have to be aggressive to help us win."

Smart's relationship with the 'Jays' goes deeper than basketball, and he said it took some growing up, as well as some tough conversations for the trio to become who they are today.

"First off, this is a family here," he said. "I grew up with the Jays.

"I've been playing five years with Jaylen, four years with Jayson. When my mom passed… they all came down to the funeral, so we've already had that bond.

"Early on in the season for us, it's just like it is with your siblings. 

"You get into it, you squabble, you're mad at each other – and then the next day you're laughing, talking, hugging… giving each other their roses, and that's what this team is.

"It started off shaky for us, but that right there is what helped us get to where we are now. We had to go through the storm to see the rainbow at the end of it.

"For me, I had to look myself in the mirror. Along with my team-mates, we had to have a heart-to-heart, we had to sit down and have that hard talk, and understand that what we're saying is to help each other.

"It's nothing bad, it's nothing personal, it's to help us get to where we want to be. It's crazy, we're here, and nobody thought we would be here… but we stayed with it, and that's why I'm proud of this team, and it's what makes us who we are."

The Celtics have done plenty of soul-searching this season, and it was the case again after a demoralising Game 2 loss, but Smart said he was determined to not let the Warriors "bully" his side.

"We pride ourselves on being a physical team, and for us, [Game 2] left a bad taste in your mouth," he said.

"Coming out of Game 2, hearing and knowing that we got beat up. It's just like anybody else, if you're in a fight with a bully or anything, you've got to keep going, you've got to stand up."

When asked if he feels like the Celtics are in a fight with a bully, Smart replied: "We definitely are, we got the Golden State Warriors, who have done this before, multiple times, and they understand what it's like to be here.

"We're that little guy that is new to the school, and they want to see exactly what you've got. They came out and punched us in our mouth in Game 2, and we responded.

"We watched the film – and that was a nasty film session for us. It was ugly, we had to sit there and watch the whole film.

"You have to look yourself in the mirror and get it together. Coming out today it was not a matter of 'are we going to be physical' – it was 'how physical are we going to be'."

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